A gunman opened fire outside a mosque shooting the Imam in northwestern France on Thursday, wounding the local imam and another person, before fleeing the scene and being found dead on the roadside with a single shot to the head.
Several shots were heard in front of the Sunna mosque in an attack targetting the Imam Rachid Eljay in the French city of Brest.
It was not immediately clear what motivated the incident in the port city of Brest in Brittany, but Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he had ordered an increase in security measures around places of worship across France.
Imam Rachid ElJay was hit by four bullets while a worshipper who was with him sustained injuries from two bullets, but neither was thought to have life-threatening wounds, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and judicial sources said.
Prosecutor Jean-Philippe Recappe said the gunman opened fire as people left the mosque in the city’s Pontanezen neighbourhood.
Both of the injured men were taken to the hospital and were later said to be recovering according to police. The lives saved by a local pharmacist who administered first aid and slowed the bleeding until the ambulance arrived.
After firing at the two men, the gunman fled the scene in a Renault Clio car that was found by police in a nearby neighbourhood shortly afterwards. The body of the assailant was found with a gunshot wound to the head close to the vehicle.
French police are playing the incident down and have suggested he does not have links to the Far-Right but this has not yet been confirmed.
A local source has suggested he was well informed and targeted the imam, first by luring him out to take a picture and then firing at him several times.’
The Imam Eljay who was previously known under the name of Rachid Abou Houdeyfa and made a series of hard-line statements against the French Far _right and government and rose to fame when he made a series of online videos.
Police have suggested that is why he has been targeted because of his Islamic views, which some have suggested are hardline and extremist.
Romain Caillet, a French consultant on Islamist issues, said that ElJay had been “targeted by [extremists] and ultra-right groups due to the imam’s videos that have made news”.
In April 2016, then-President Francois Hollande a Far-Right sympathiser has said on television that the Brest mosque had been closed and Imam Rachid Abu Houdeyfa was being prosecuted. However, this was later found to be inaccurate.
According to official records, the Imam of the Mosque has never been prosecuted or charged with any crime.
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